• From left: Lovers on the Bridge, The Illusionist, The City of Lost Children, BPM (Beats Per Minute) (SBS Movies)Source: SBS Movies
A selection of standout French films now streaming at SBS On Demand.
By
SBS Movies

13 Sep 2019 - 2:09 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2019 - 2:09 PM

Love French cinema? We've gathered a handful of classic and overlooked titles across a variety of the genres the French do best – coming-of-age dramas, sex comedies, crime sagas, psychological thrillers and more – and brought to life by some of the country's finest actors and directors.

With a Friend Like Harry...

M
France, 2000
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Language: French
Director: Dominik Moll
Starring: Laurent Lucas, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin
What's it about?
Harry (Pan's Labyrinth's Sergi López) knew Michel in high school; they meet again by accident, Harry inserts himself in Michel's life... and things take a sinister turn. Also known under the title Harry, He's Here To Help.

The Hairdresser's Husband

MA15+
France, 1990
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Language: French
Director: Patrice Leconte
Starring: Jean Rochefort, Anna Galiena, Roland Bertin, Maurice Chevit
What's it about?
As a twelve-year-old, Antoine was introduced to sex by a woman who cut his hair, and as a middle-aged man, he has a passionate romance with a shy hairdresser. From Patrice Leconte, director of The Girl on the Bridge and Monsieur Hire.

Caché

MA15+
Austria, France, 2005
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Thriller
Language: French
Director: Michael Haneke
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Annie Girardot, Bernard Le Coq
What's it about?
A married couple, terrorised by a series of surveillance videotapes and drawings planted at their home, tries to find the identity of their stalker, with unexpected and life-shattering consequences. Nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Michael Haneke (Amour, The White Ribbon).

See The Sea

MA15+
France, 1997
Genre: Thriller
Language: French
Director: François Ozon
Starring: Sasha Hails, Marina de Van
What's it about?
Sasha, a young British woman, lives with her baby daughter at Ile d'Yeu, a peaceful seaside village in France. One day, a homeless young woman, Tatiana, appears at her home and asks if she can pitch her tent in Sasha's yard. The two women build an odd rapport, and tension builds as events unfold. From François Ozon, director of Swimming Pool and In the House.

In Bed with Victoria

M
France, 2016
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Language: English, French
Director: Justine Triet
Starring: Virginie Efira, Vincent Lacoste, Melvil Poupaud
What's it about?
Victoria Spick, a criminal lawyer who is single, turns up at a wedding and meets three men there: David, the father of her daughters; Vincent, a friend of hers; and Sam, a former drug dealer who she bailed out. The next day, Vincent is accused of attempted murder by his partner.

The Illusionist

PG
France, 2010
Genre: Comedy, Animation
Language: French
Director: Sylvain Chomet
What's it about?
Details the story of a dying breed of stage entertainer whose thunder is being stolen by emerging rock stars. Forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theaters, garden parties and bars, he meets a young fan who changes his life forever. From The Triplets of Belleville director Sylvain Chomet and based on an unproduced screenplay by French comic legend Jacques Tati.

The Illusionist Review
Jacques Tati on SBS On Demand

Dilili in Paris

PG
Germany, Belgium, France, 2018
Genre: Animation
Language: French
Director: Michel Ocelot
Starring: Prunelle Charles-Ambron, Enzo Ratsito, Natalie Dessay, Elisabeth Duda, Olivier Voisin
What's it about?
With the help of her delivery-boy friend, Dilili, a young Kanak, investigates a spate of mysterious kidnappings of young girls that is plaguing Belle Epoque Paris. In the course of her investigation she encounters a series of extraordinary characters, each of whom provides her with clues that will help her in her quest. From the director of Kirikou and the Sorceress.

The Lovers on the Bridge

MA15+
France, 1991
Genre: Drama, Romance
Language: French
Director: Leos Carax
Starring: Denis Lavant, Juliette Binoche
What's it about?
Set against Paris' oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf, while it was closed for repairs, this film is a love story between two young vagrants: Alex, a would be circus performer addicted to alcohol and sedatives and Michele, a painter driven to a life on the streets because of a failed relationship and an affliction which is slowly turning her blind. From Leos Carax, writer/director of Holy Motors.

BPM (Beats per Minute)

MA15+
France, 2017
Genre: Drama
Language: French
Director: Robin Campillo
Starring: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Félix Maritaud
What's it about?
Paris, in the early 1990s: a group of young activists is desperately tied to finding the cure against an unknown lethal disease. They target the pharmaceutical labs that are retaining potential cures, and multiply direct actions, with the hope of saving their lives as well as the ones of future generations. Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

The City of Lost Children

M
France, 1995
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Adventure
Language: French
Director: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring: Ron Perlman
What's it about?
On a mist-shrouded rig in the sea, beyond an old minefield, Krank ages prematurely because he lacks one vital function: the ability to dream. And so he kidnaps children from the harbour town, to steal their happy dreams from them.

The City of Lost Children Review

The New Girlfriend

MA15+
France, 2014
Genre: Drama
Language: French
Director: François Ozon
Starring: Romain Duris, Anaïs Demoustier, Raphaël Personnaz, Isild Le Besco, Aurore Clement
What's it about?
Claire (Demoustier) and Laura (Le Besco) have been friends since primary school. Now, in their adult lives, with each happily married, to Gilles (Personnaz) and David (Duris) respectively, they are as close as ever. Then Laura dies after an illness and Claire's world is suddenly very empty. Being the godmother of Laura's child, Lucie, Claire visits David and Lucie, only to discover he has a startling secret...

Transcend old prejudices in 'The New Girlfriend'

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

M
France, 2005
Genre: Drama
Language: French
Director: Jacques Audiard
Starring: Romain Duris, Emmanuelle Devos, Niels Arestrup, Linh Dan Pham
What's it about?
Tom (Duris) works as a real estate debt collector for his father Robert (Arestrup). This violent line of work leads Thomas to wish he could be more like his late mother, who was a concert pianist. When offered a piano audition, he starts to practise again. Will Thomas get stuck in a cycle of crime and cruelty just like his thuggish father, or will he pursue his dream of becoming a musician? A remake of the cult 1978 film Fingers (starring Harvey Keitel in Duris' role). 

Why You Should Watch: The Beat That My Heart Skipped

The House by the Sea

M
France, 2017
Genre: Drama
Language: French, Arabic
Director: Robert Guediguian
Starring: Ariane Ascaride, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Gérard Meylan, Jacques Boudet
What's it about?
By a little bay near Marseille lies a picturesque villa owned by an old man (Darroussin). His three children have gathered by his side for his last days. It’s time for them to weigh up what they have inherited of their father’s ideals and the community spirit he created in this magical place. The arrival, at a nearby cove, of a group of boat people will throw these moments of reflection into turmoil. From Robert Guediguian, director of The Town is Quiet and Army of Crime.

Amanda

M
France, 2018
Genre: Drama
Language: French
Director: Mikhaël Hers
Starring: Vincent Lacoste, Isaure Multrier, Stacy Martin, Ophélia Kolb
What's it about?
David, who gets by doing odd jobs, meets Lena, who has just moved up to Paris, and falls in love. But soon after, his life is brutally interrupted by the sudden death of his sister. Beyond the shock, and the pain, David now finds himself alone with his young niece Amanda to care for.

 

The White Knights

M
Belgium, France, 2016
Genre: Drama
Language: French
Director: Joachim Lafosse
Starring: Vincent Lindon, Louise Bourgoin, Valerie Donzelli
What's it about?
Jacques Arnault, head of Sud Secours NGO, is planning a high impact operation: he and his team are going to exfiltrate 300 orphan victims of the Chadian civil war and bring them to French adoption applicants. Françoise Dubois, a journalist, is invited to come along with them and handle the media coverage for this operation. Completely immersed in the brutal reality of a country at war, the NGO members start losing their convictions and are faced with the limits of humanitarian intervention.

Girls Can't Swim

M
France, 2000
Genre: Drama
Language: French
Director: Anne-Sophie Birot
Starring: Isild Le Besco, Pascale Bussières, Pascal Elso, Marie Rivière, Karen Alyx, Yelda Reynaud
What's it about?
Gwen is a teenager living in a small coastal town. Lise is her best friend, a city girl who comes every year with her family to spend the summer. This year things are different though; at first Lise might not come at all, and when she does it is obvious that Gwen grew up faster than she did.

Lemming

M
France, 2005
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Language: French
Director: Dominik Moll
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, André Dussollier
What's it about?
Alain Getty, a brilliant young home automation engineer, and his wife Benedicte having recently arrived in a new town, invite Alain's boss Richard Pollock and his wife Alice to dinner. The encounter does not leave the young couple's harmony unscathed. The discovery of a mysterious rodent's corpse blocking the waste pipe of their kitchen sink does nothing to help and portends the bursting of irrationality into a hitherto orderly life.

 

The Connection

MA15+
Belgium, France, 2014
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Language: French
Director: Cédric Jimenez
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette, Mélanie Doutey, Benoit Magimel
What's it about?
Pierre (Dujardin), a relentlessly dedicated magistrate, is reassigned to Marseille in 1975 where the port city is ruled not by law, but by the terrifying mafia boss, Gaetan Zampa (Lellouche). Soon Pierre realises that to make a difference he will need to change his methods. Based on a true story, film tells the little known saga of how a ruthless international drug syndicate came undone. 

Rosalie Blum

M
France, 2016
Genre: Comedy
Language: French
Director: Julien Rappeneau
Starring: Noemie Lvovsky, Kyan Khojandi, Alice Isaaz, Anemone, Philippe Rebbot
What's it about?
Vincent Machot knows his life by heart. He shares it between his hair dressing salon, his cousin, his cat, and his too-invasive mother. But life sometimes holds surprises, even for the most prudent of people... He crosses paths with Rosalie Blum by accident. She is a mysterious and solitary woman whom he is sure he has already met. But where? Intrigued, he decides to follow her everywhere, in the hope of knowing more about her.

The Finishers

PG
France, 2013
Genre: Drama
Language: French
Director: Nils Tavernier
Starring: Fabien Héraud, Alexandra Lamy, Jacques Gamblin
What's it about?
Julien (Héraud) dreams of adventure. But when you live in a wheelchair, such dreams are difficult to fulfill. To do so, Julien challenges his father (Gamblin) to compete with him in the ‘Ironman’ triathlon in Nice. A whole family comes together and reconnects in an attempt to see this incredible exploit through. 

The Finishers Review: Charming French melodrama

Violette

M
France, Belgium, 2013
Genre: Drama, Biography
Language: French
Director: Martin Provost
Starring: Emmanuelle Devos, Sandrine Kiberlain, Olivier Gourmet, Olivier Py
What's it about?


In wartime France, Violette Leduc (Devos) lives in the countryside, subsiding on the profits of her black-marketeering. Upon the urging of her writer friend, Maurice Sachs (Py), Violette moves to Paris, where she discovers the writing of Simone de Beauvoir (Kiberlain). This simple discovery changes her life forever. A fearless and determined woman, Violette writes a novel and sets about meeting de Beauvoir to request her help in having it published, an action which leads to the development of an intense and lifelong relationship between the two women. From Martin Provost, director of Seraphine and The Midwife.

Violette: Martin Provost interview
'Violette': Sharp, Sympathetic Look At Uncompromising Woman's Art And Life

Emmanuelle Devos in 'Violette'